By: Lance Rinker
A staple of Dallas basketball for the past 16 years, Dirk Nowitzki became the ninth-highest scorer in NBA history on Tuesday Nov. 11 against the Sacramento Kings when he passed Hakeem Olajuwon.
It was only fitting Nowtizki scored the record-breaking points using his signature shot, the mid-range jumper. A key part of Nowitzki’s game is using his 7-foot height to take shots over defenders, something he has done with great success on his way to the Hall of Fame. The style itself is something that was developed in Europe, where big men were more commonly taught skills outside the paint.
With 26,974 points, through last Friday, Nowitzki now sits below Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone and Elvin Hayes.
What else makes his entrance into the ninth all-time scorers spot special is the fact that he became the leading scorer among international players in NBA history. He has also done all his scoring with the same team, which places him second on the all-time scoring list behind Kobe Bryant.
Nowitzki’s distinct and wholly unique style has not only influenced the NBA abroad, but it has really changed the way the game is played here in the United States. He helped revolutionize today’s game by transcending roles and the narrow idea that big men wasted their height by playing far from the basket.
When Nowitzki entered the league during the lockout-shortened season in 1999, the NBA only had 38 international players and most 7-footers still played with their backs to the basket, with the idea they could dominate inside using their size alone. This season, the league has a record 101 international players from 37 countries and territories and big men hovering around the perimeter is now commonplace.
There weren’t too many scouts or executives drooling to get their hands on Nowitzki, but Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban and former Head Coach Donnie Nelson played the role of mad geniuses to perfection when they acquired the Big German.
The draft-night trade that sent Robert Taylor to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998 in exchange for Nowitzki remains one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.
Nowitzki, a native of Wurzburg, Germany, wasn’t the product of some high-profile basketball factory. Instead, he learned everything he knew, coming into the league, from shooting coach Holger Geshwinder – the same man he has trained with since he was 15-years-old. Relying on hard work, intelligence and an unwavering determination to succeed has gotten him to where he is today.
In his 17th season, at age 36, Nowitzki remains a model of sustained productivity and continues to average more than 20-points-per-game, as he has in 13 of his previous 14 seasons. The only down year came when he was limited to just 53 games due to a knee injury during the 2012-13 season.
Barring severe injury, the Big German is set to move up to at least seventh place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season. He could pass Shaquille O’Neal within the first two weeks of next season and then set his sights on passing Wilt Chamberlain, to become the fifth most prolific scorer in NBA history, before his contract expires in 2017.
With a championship and increasingly impressive career marks, Nowitzki has a strong résumé when it comes to debating the all-time greats.